William Faulkner

June 19, 2006


William Cuthbert Faulkner
Nobel Prize-winning novelist from Mississippi
Work is known for literary devices like stream of consciousness, multiple narrations or points of view, and narrative time shifts
Known for using long, serpentine sentences and meticulously chosen diction
Some consider Faulkner to be the only true American Modernist prose fiction writer of the 1930s

A Rose For Emily (1930)

Distinctive for its unusual use of first-person plural point of view and non-chronological ordering of episodes
Story of an eccentric spinster, Emily Grierson, and her relationship with her town, father and Homer Barron, the object of her affections
Themes of society of the South at that time, the role of women in the South, and extreme psychosis


“When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant- a combined gardener and cook- had seen in at least ten years.”

“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…”

“They rose when she entered- a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head.  Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her.  She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue.  Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.”

“People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were.”

“Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized.”

“…we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.”

“She carried her head high enough- even when we believed that she was fallen.  It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperiousness.  Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic.  That was over a year after they had begun to say ‘Poor Emily,’ and while the two female cousins were visiting her.
‘I want some poison,’ she said to the druggist.  She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eye-sockets as you imagine a light-house-keeper’s face ought to look.  ‘I want some poison,’ she said.
‘Yes, Miss Emily.  What kind? For rats and such? I’d recom-‘
‘I want the best you have.  I don’t care what kind.’…
Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up.”

“…as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.”

“They held the funeral on the second day, with the town coming o look at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier and the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men- some in their brushed Confederate uniforms- on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road, but instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years.”

“For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin.   The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.”


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